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DIRECTOR’S DESK
Focus!

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The other day a publisher
came into our office to discuss his title and his plans for marketing his new
book. It was a children’s book with a unique thrust, designed to teach manners
to children with learning disabilities, specifically attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As I read his book, I was intrigued by its
focus—manners for this specific segment of the population. Having raised
an ADHD child many years ago (before it was called ADHD, in fact), I could
relate to the specific challenges faced by the children described in this book.

 

Earlier the same month, I was in
New York on business and happened to be watching the news coverage of an event
at the city’s Carlyle Hotel. Children and parents were invited to participate
in a high tea especially designed for the very young. When a young boy was
interviewed by the local station and asked what he especially liked about this
event, he replied, “Well, I get to practice my manners here, which I never get
to do at home!”

 

I have been watching a growing
number of manners books for children come into our office over the past few
years, and I have listened to many of their publishers as they tell what they
have been doing to market their titles, including staging eat-in events at
local restaurants that allow the author to discuss and demonstrate the book’s
concept while selling product and having a great time.

 

Though the world doesn’t really
need yet another general manners book for kids, it did need the one on manners
for children with ADHD. That was the “hook in the book,” or the focus.

 

So many times, however, the focus
(and therefore the sale) of a book gets lost because a publisher wants the book
to be all things to all people. Often, a book can come to appeal to a general
universe, but it will achieve much more success by initially serving the
primary universe for which it was intended.

 

When you plan for your title
(either now or in the future), ask yourself, Who will be the first group of
people to purchase this book? Who was this book written for? The more specific
you get, the better your chance at success in your initial marketing and also,
hopefully, the better your chance to grow sales in wider arenas.

 

A Person with Focus

 

On January 17, we celebrate the
300th birthday of Benjamin Franklin, a man much admired by most of us in the
publishing community. Since he, like many of us, loved to read, write, and
collect books, his family decided to direct him toward a career that would encompass
his interests. At age 12, he became an apprentice to a printer, and at age 22
this publishing entrepreneur opened his first printing shop. He started a
newspaper, and a few years after that, wrote one of the bestsellers of his
time, Poor Richard’s
Almanack
, which sold in excess of 10,000 copies a year way back
when. Many of us would love to be able to copy this success today!

 

Also, this great-great grandfather
of our industry started the first lending library in 1731. Since books were
very expensive during his time, which meant that initially only people with
money could afford education, he, along with a group of other printers, pooled
resources and purchased books for the general populace to borrow.

 

Again, like many of you out there,
he retired early (at age 42, to be exact). His retirement, like many of yours,
didn’t involve inactivity. You, many times, decide to publish and share your
expertise from a former career with others via books. He decided to invent.

 

Benjamin Franklin’s life always
involved a focus. In many instances, his focus led him to branch out into
uncharted territories, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. At age 81, he was
one of the oldest delegates at the U.S. Constitutional Convention. A person to
emulate . . . you bet!

 

Happy birthday, Benjamin, from
your fellow publishers, printers, inventors, and entrepreneurs at PMA!

 

 

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